The Northwestern community struggles to rationalize the Bailey fiasco
and evade the reality that Bailey has brought great shame on their university.
A Report and Analysis by Lynn Conway
TBD - - - In this page, we report on and analyze a series of articles published in late January and early February 2005 that reflect the Northwestern community's emerging rationalization of the Bailey fiasco. These articles reveal how that community is trying to evade facing the reality that Bailey has brought great shame on their university and on academic psychology in general. - - - TBD - - -
Links to the Daily Northwestern articles:
January 19, 2005: Without showing any signs of remorse, Bailey again attacks the formal complainants at NU.
January 31, 2005: Daily
NU article contends that universities are naive if they even bother to
investigate research misconduct.
February 3, 2005: Editorial proclaims that intellectual life is "under assault" as a result of the Bailey investigation.
January 19, 2005:
Without showing any signs of remorse,
Bailey again attacks the formal complainants at NU,
this time claiming that they are liars:
these people's permission to write about them"
With Bailey, it's all about sex ... lies?
(Jerome Curran Pandell column)
January 19, 2005
The Culture War has come crashing onto campus -- and psychology Prof. J. Michael Bailey's research is fueling the fire.
A Northwestern committee recently finished an inquiry into claims that Bailey violated federal rules for human research subjects while interviewing transsexuals for his book, "The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism." Officials are tightlipped about the investigation's outcome. Did Bailey do anything wrong? Why do some transsexual activists hate his book?
Bailey's book is part researcher's memoir, part primer on psychological theories about sex and gender identity. It's neither hard science nor entirely original -- Bailey is summarizing different theories for a lay audience.
Then why all the fuss? The transsexuals Bailey wrote about claimed the material in the book was equal to a piece of academic scholarship. As a result, including such private details gathered for research in a book without all the privacy protections afforded human subjects would violate federal research guidelines. Human research subjects are people from whom a researcher obtains data or identifiable private information through interaction with the person.
But were the transsexuals Bailey interviewed research subjects?
"These people I wrote about were friendly acquaintances," Bailey told me. "I was accused of doing research without consent. I had these people's permission to write about them. I did not have their written permission -- that's because I didn't think I needed it, and I still don't think I need it."
In recent years, NU has faced scrutiny of its research administration -- the staff who monitor research practices and use of federal funds. If the feds discovered rules were broken, especially for human subjects, NU could lose funding. NU deflected another inquiry into its research practices by handling l'affaire Bailey internally.
Bailey might have been sloppy, and, sadly, he likely won't write another book for a lay audience without oversight by NU after this imbroglio.
In the book, Bailey compares life stories of six transsexual women to the theories of Ray Blanchard, of Toronto's Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, who categorizes transsexuals as either homosexual or autogynephilic (aroused by the image of themselves as women). Some transsexual activists attacked Bailey before the subjects of the book even filed complaints in July 2003.
"They hated the content of the book," Bailey said. "That is the real reason all this happened."
Some of Bailey's more severe critics liken his research to eugenic experiments by the Nazis. I spoke with one critic -- Stanford biology Prof. Joan Roughgarden, also a transsexual --who calls the book "academic fraud."
In academia you're bound to run into ideas that challenge core beliefs. The proper thing to do is debate, not attack. These critics failed to do that.
Funny how NU never dignified attacks on Bailey's ideas with a response. Silence speaks louder than vitriol.
Jerome Curran Pandell is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 31, 2005:
Daily Northwestern article contends that universities are naive
if they even bother to investigate any charges of research misconduct because:
"As the kerfuffle over psychology Prof. J. Michael Bailey proves,
most of these charges are red herrings for hatred of particular ideas."
Embrace it: Provocative views vital
(Henry M. Bowles III column)
January 31, 2005
It's anticlimactic to speak of the "closing" of the American mind. Use the past tense, please. Briefly consider one hardly surprising response to my last column on inequality: The fuming author repeatedly expressed his shock at what I wrote ("I still can't believe what I read ... it boggles my mind") and in an apparent attempt at irony, concluded the letter by reciting nasty stereotypes about black people. Gosh, what exactly was the author intimating? You're staring at the state of intellectual debate in our culture. This author knew exactly what he was doing: Smear people as racist, unpatriotic or hateful and -- abracadabra -- they are silenced. This blinkered hatred of challenging ideas is a self-indulgent culture's flabby version of debate.
As with so many other unfortunate trends coming out of the cultural woodwork, for this we can blame Sept. 11, 2001. The cause for alarm is not that the provincialist passion has gripped political debate and the newsroom, but that it has taken aim at the intellectual -- and with great success. This was clear immediately after Sept. 11, when the late Susan Sontag was flogged for her response in the New Yorker. The rules were set: Like so many other issues in American life, we would address Sept. 11 in glib sound bytes. We were barred from pointing out the perfectly obvious: Terrorists are not cowards and Sept. 11 was not a random act of evil.
Our penchant for repression has not ebbed since Sept. 11. Middle East studies and Muslim professors are under constant assault. A group of unscrupulous Columbia University students is making a racket with a "documentary" that purports to demonstrate anti-Israeli bias among professors. The documentary's claims are so banal (my professor is pro-Palestinian!) that, even if true, they hardly merit attention.
In agreeing to investigate these allegations about classroom bias or unethical research, university administrations have been either naive or eager to avoid bad press. As the kerfuffle over psychology Prof. J. Michael Bailey proves, most of these charges are red herrings for hatred of particular ideas.
The new rage for "objectivity" in the classroom must be among the most misbegotten student political fads in recent campus memory. Students have launched a perpetual campaign that has in its crosshairs professors with inconvenient political views. Online blacklists of such professors are not unheard of. These students -- who ironically call themselves advocates of "academic freedom" -- ignore the fact that academics are necessarily biased. The purpose of an intellectual is to think. This would be awfully hard to achieve without opinions. To frighten professors into checking these opinions at the door of the lecture hall would not be desirable.
So the barbarians are past the gates and we lash out at provocative opinions. The more intolerant we are of challenging beliefs, the more benighted our culture becomes. Welcome to the intellectual doldrums.
Henry M. Bowles III is a Medill junior. He can be reached at email@example.com.
February 03, 2005:
Daily Northwestern Editorial proclaims that intellectual life
is "under assault" as a result of the Bailey investigation,
and defends Bailey's position on homosexual eugenics.
Editorial: Intellectual life under assault
February 03, 2005
American universities have long been celebrated for being at the forefront of cutting-edge scholarship -- largely because of the scholar's ability to explore. Intellectual freedom is at the core of any society dedicated to progress.
The ongoing debates over the work of psychology Prof. J. Michael Bailey, comments by Harvard University President Lawrence Summers and an essay by University of Colorado-Boulder Prof. Ward Churchill provide a prime opportunity for universities to reexamine the meaning of intellectual freedom and the role academics ought to play in ensuring their work does not fall victim to abuse.
The fracas over Bailey's book, which examines transsexual life, has been raging for more than a year, yet it remains unresolved. At first, critics accused Bailey of violating federal research rules by revealing his subjects' identities without their consent (Bailey contends he never was conducting hard-and-fast scientific research). Now, Bailey must contend with the appalling development that eugenicists have used his book and his other research to declare homosexuality a contagious disease and a source of social decay.
Many of these eugenicists have misused science -- or simply invented it -- to argue, for example, that Al Gore lost the 2000 election because of a "prim" lisp that alienated voters. Yet often what goes unmentioned is that Bailey has called eugenics completely false and even wrote in a 2001 article that homosexuality "is entirely acceptable morally."
In a Jan. 14 speech, Summers referenced research at the University of Michigan and the University of California-Davis that explores whether genetic differences between the sexes may account for fewer women active in scientific fields. Summers reportedly said he'd "like to be proven wrong on this one," yet he continues to endure charges of sexism.
Hamilton College cancelled a speech Churchill was scheduled to deliver today because of an essay he wrote pointing to U.S. foreign policy decisions as the motivations behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Accused of excusing terrorism and degrading the attacks' victims, he since has resigned his position as chairman of Colorado's ethnic studies program.
Instead of petty name-calling, intellectual discourse ought to consider substantive alternatives to controversial claims. New scholarship must withstand intense scrutiny to pass intellectual muster. Those of us in the public sphere have an obligation to provide that oversight. But refuting a theory for its empirical faults is one thing; rejecting it because it might enter the realm of the taboo is quite different. Self-censorship for political correctness will restrict future research simply because it makes certain people uncomfortable.
Intellectual freedom, however, does not mean intellectual sloppiness. Summers should have exercised more tact in his comments -- even if he did warn audience members he intended to rile them up. A casual observer can read a snippet of his comments and conclude that women are inferior to men in the sciences. An ardent sexist can use it as justification for denying women educational opportunities. If anything, the fact that women make up a lower proportion of scientists only makes the cause for reform more urgent -- something Summers should consider given his low levels of tenured female professors. Summers should not use the studies to excuse his poor gender diversity record. But critics should not dismiss the theory outright without thoughtful investigation.
Abusing scholarship for intentions beyond the author's original purpose hardly is new. Many of the physicists behind the Manhattan Project were aghast at the sight of nuclear proliferation. Sweeping geopolitical changes were behind the adulteration of that breakthrough, but it illustrates the need for dogged vigilance against impropriety. If universities are to maintain their integrity as the citadels of creative thinking, they cannot abide either the stifling of intellectual thought or its abuse.
This page is part of Lynn Conway's
"Investigative report into the publication
of J. Michael Bailey's book on transsexualism
by the National Academies"